Undersheriff will run for top law enforcer

02/03/2021

After a quarter of a century and only one contested election, Marin County Sheriff Robert Doyle will retire from his post in 2022. The race for the seat has begun: Undersheriff Jamie Scardina, who was endorsed by the sheriff after two decades with the county department, announced his run against newcomer Adam McGill, the city manager of Novato.

This week, the Light spoke with Undersheriff Scardina. The 45-year-old Marinwood resident and father of two has spent nearly his entire career rising in the ranks of the Marin County Sheriff’s Office after getting his start with the Tiburon Police Department. 

A Corte Madera native, he returned home after receiving his bachelor’s degree in sociology and criminology from the University of Montana; in 1998, he put himself through the police academy. He has served as a deputy for six years, a detective for two, a sergeant for four, a lieutenant for eight, a captain for one. He has been in his current position for two years and, for the past six months on a temporary basis, has been filling in as the chief of police for Tiburon. 

His interest in leading Marin’s law enforcement stems from his department’s support for him to take the reins, he told the Light.

Light: What made you decide to run for sheriff?

Scardina: It’s about my community. I truly believe in partnering with my community, providing leadership and excellent service and public safety. This is my home, this is my community, this is what I’ve grown into. I want nothing more than to continue to serve the community where I live. My opponent has been in several different places, but he doesn’t have the deep roots in Marin County like I do and the long-established relationships that I have built. I’m not looking for that next shiny new quarter: The County of Marin is my shiny quarter, and this is where I want to be. These are the residents I want to serve. 

I think more importantly, this organization wants me to be their sheriff. And that gives me a tremendous amount of pride when I have members of our organization saying, “Hey, we want you to be our next sheriff. We want you to be our next leader.”

Light: What is your policing ethic?

Scardina: My vision is continuing that partnership with community I just spoke of to provide leadership excellence and public safety. I think over the years, and especially as the undersheriff running the day-to-day operations of the sheriff’s office, we have created a culture that is inclusive to everyone in our workforce. We are also committed to partnering with everyone in our community... 

I truly believe the Marin County Sheriff’s Office has implemented 21st-century policing. Twenty-first-century policing is about building trust in policies, having technologies [like] social media, community policing and training your officers. As an organization, not only are we already doing this, but we have taken it to the next level. 

Let’s just look at social media. On our Nextdoor platform, we have almost 44,000 followers; on our Facebook page, we have almost 14,000 followers; and on Twitter, we have over 21,000 followers. I truly believe our social media is second to nobody. We do a great job getting our message out to the community.

When it comes to building trust and community policing especially in West Marin, obviously we weren’t able to do it in 2020, but National Night Out has been a huge event in West Marin…. In 2019, we all came together and by far it was our best turnout. It’s just about building relationships with the community.

Touching upon the trainings, we were the second agency in the State of California to require all of our sworn staff to attend L.G.B.T.Q. awareness training. We are also trying to get to the point where all of our staff is crisis-intervention trained and they all attend mental illness awareness training.

We were the first agency in Marin to collect and report back to the community on our RIPA data.  RIPA is the Racial Identity Profiling Act, which requires law enforcement agencies to collect certain demographics regarding the stops that officers and deputies are making. Per RIPA, we were not required to submit this data to the Department of Justice until April 2023. But we decided to get out in front over two years in advance to start collecting this data because, quite frankly, the community was asking for it. 

We included proactive practices and put a policy in place for when deputies make a traffic stop or after they have contact with an individual—there are 16 different criteria that D.O.J. wants in the report. I’m very proud that we were the first in Marin to start collecting and reporting that data. 

Light: What is your view on the department’s cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement? 

Scardina: S.B. 54 is law. We believe that our policies and operations fall within the law of S.B. 54. Now, and over the last couple years, we have a very strong working relationship with Canal Alliance. I have been a part of [creating] the relationship and look forward to continuing the relationship with Canal Alliance. I think we have reached a point where, when we come together and we talk with Canal Alliance, it’s about being open and about being transparent about our practices, and how we feel we are falling within the law of S.B. 54. 

We’ve also met with other groups over immigration, including Ice Out of Marin. I look forward to hearing from those groups; I look forward to hearing their ideas, and to hearing how they would like us to be different. Because maybe they are thinking about something that we aren’t thinking of. And that’s part of what being in a relationship is: hearing all the different sides and coming together to do what is the right thing. 

When it comes to immigration, we have a policy that forbids our patrol from enforcing any immigration status or asking any individual their status on immigration. Not only that but we do not participate in any ICE raids, period. That’s forbidden in our policy. 

Light: Should Marin become a sanctuary county, discontinuing cooperation with ICE entirely?

Scardina: That’s not a decision for me. Part of being a law enforcement officer is enforcing the law. That’s what we do, enforcing S.B. 54. So it would not be my decision to make the county a sanctuary county. That’s a decision for the Board of Supervisors.

Light: Last year, supervisors withheld some of a budget increase in order to fund racial equity initiatives. What did you think about that decision?

Scardina: It’s important to understand that all the departments across the county were cut by five percent. We don’t have control over budget cuts—that’s up to the Board of Supervisors. 

When it comes to racial equality from an organizational standpoint, we have made it a priority through our hiring practices to be diverse. If you take a look at our hiring practices, our last 24 hires, 33 percent of them were women and/or minorities. I think we were already doing a great job in that area.

Light: How will you ensure that people of different races are treated equally by law enforcement in Marin?

Scardina: It comes down to the individuals we hire. We hire wonderful people, and our organization is made up of good people. It’s about training our individuals throughout the organization, and at the end of the day, it’s about building relationships and it’s about building trust. That’s what we need to do as an organization, and that’s what I will continue to do. 

We are already doing this in our community. We have relationships with Canal Alliance, like I said, Bridge the Gap [College Prep], the Y.M.C.A. We sponsor a basketball team to be part of a recreational league down in Marin City. We have a deputy who in her spare time coaches volleyball down in Marin City. These are the types of relationships that we will continue to make to ensure that we treat everybody fairly. Ultimately, it comes down to trust: Successful relationships lead to a successful department.  

Light: How do you look at policing in West Marin in particular?

Scardina: I’ve been fortunate enough to be a deputy directing traffic when there’s been thousands of beachgoers trying to get in and out of Stinson Beach; I’ve walked Bolinas on the Fourth of July; I’ve ridden with our mounted posse on the streets of Point Reyes; and I’ve been in Lawson’s Landing when there have been hundreds of campers descending on that area. So I know what the issues are in West Marin. 

We have a wonderful relationship with the community out there, and our station commanders along with our deputies have built great relationships, whether it’s with the G.G.N.R.A. or the U.S. park police. We are continually meeting with the West Marin Disaster Council, meeting every other month to talk about issues that are going on in West Marin. We are very involved and we listen to the community. And we listen to them because we serve them: We want to hear what their concerns are, and what the priorities are for them. That’s what we’ve been doing and that’s my vision moving forward.

Light: In West Marin, the reduction in funding meant that our nighttime patrol hours were cut. Should that change?

Scardina: Thank you for bringing that up. I think there is a little bit of a misconception about there not being patrol in West Marin. When we have staffing available, we are covering West Marin 24 hours per day. Let me back up a little bit to explain how we got to this decision. We had our budget cut during the last budget cuts, which was equivalent to four deputy sheriff positions. Deputies were being forced to work overtime [already], and organizationally, we needed to look at what we needed to be doing differently. 

We didn’t just make an emotional, rash decision. What we did was look at two years’ worth of data at our patrol level, and what we noticed was that between the hours of 11 p.m. and 11 a.m., deputies out on the coast were responding to about 3.3 calls for service during that time period, and those were non-emergency, non-911-type calls. They were calls that number one, could be handled over the phone, or they were calls that could be handled by another deputy. So, what we decided to do was to reduce the hours of coverage in West Marin during those times. 

It’s also important to remember that it’s not uncommon in rural areas for sheriff’s offices not to cover particular areas 24 hours per day. There are sheriff’s offices across the state that have residential deputies and, after 9 or 10 at night, there’s nobody covering that particular area. Just north of us in Sonoma County, that’s the way the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office does it in the particular area of west Sonoma County. 

We are still sending deputies on calls for service in West Marin. It’s also important to remember: If our two deputies were in Tomales and there was a call for service in Stinson Beach, well guess what, the deputy in southern Marin [now] is going to get there a lot faster than the one in Tomales [would have]. Our supervisors have always had the latitude to move deputies around to where there are particular incidents happening. It’s a [misconception] that there is not 24-hour coverage in West Marin.

Light: Sheriff Bob Doyle has been in office since 1996. What’s your view on his tenure?

Scardina: Twenty-five years as our sheriff, Sheriff Doyle has certainly left his impact and an imprint on our organization and the County of Marin. He’s so well-respected throughout the state. I’m certainly happy for Sheriff Doyle, and I am grateful for his support and endorsement to take over an organization that he has led for this long. 

Sheriff Doyle has done a tremendous job of building relationships with people in this community, and he has done a phenomenal job of building relationships with the Board of Supervisors over the past 25 years. I think there’s been some inference that that relationship is fractured, and I couldn’t disagree more. Now, does the sheriff and the Board of Supervisors always see eye to eye? Well, of course not. I don’t think anybody does, and I actually think that’s healthy and respectful. Along with Sheriff Doyle and myself as the undersheriff, we communicate with the Board of Supervisors and their aides on a weekly if not daily basis. So, if there’s any thought that those relationships are fractured, that couldn’t be more false. 

Light: What should we know about your past experience that primes you for this position?

Scardina: Because I have grown out of this organization, I know what it is like to run a sheriff’s office. Being a sheriff is not like being a chief of police. You have to run a jail facility; you have to run the courts; you have a patrol division. There are differences from being a chief. 

I talked about this earlier: I have really strong roots here. I have long-established relationships that I have built over the years in this community. It is fact that this department wants me to be their next sheriff, and their next leader. I don’t have a desire to go to any other jurisdiction, or any other department, and I’m not sure you can say that about my opponent. 

I think you look at his track record, you see he hasn’t spent very much time in any one place. I’m not sure the commitment [he has] to Marin County is on a long-term basis. And I will be [committed]. I have been here my whole life, and I don’t plan on leaving. I want to continue to serve and be a part of this community—and I will always make decisions that are best for the community and their safety.

Jamie Scardina is running for Marin sheriff. - Photo courtesy of Marin County County Sheriff's Office.